I reviewed This War of Mine in January 2016, and the review still reflects my views on the game, including highly recommending it to just about anyone.
Since that review the game has received two major updates; the first being “The Little Ones” DLC, focused around adding children to the game, and the free Anniversary update, which adds new locations and a few other tweaks. I want to talk about those, specifically the DLC.
As mention in the review, TWoM is amazing in terms of atmosphere, even if that atmosphere is focused around civilians surviving by any means in a war-torn city, so not exactly happy fun land. Adding playable children to that mix is tricky, because while it’s one thing to watch an innocent adult die, its another to see a child die or suffer. At the same time, enabling children to be safe or invulnerable, which is what many videogames do, wouldn’t fit into what TWoM is going for. I feel “The Little Ones” DLC hits a good balance.
For starters, children can’t go out to scavenge, so they aren’t put into immediate danger of being shot or stabbed while out at a site. They can, however, be injured during a raid on your house, and they react especially terrified if they are left home alone during a raid. The first time this happened to me I legitimately felt terrible (as do your adult characters) and as if I had failed the child (having kids of your own I think amps this up). What really makes things difficult is if you don’t send someone out to scavenge, you aren’t going to survive long-term, so sometimes you really can’t stay behind and protect the child every night.
Children also react more severely to someone getting injured while out at night, especially if they are attached to that person (either a father/mother, or someone they have become close friends with at the house). This makes an already bad event (getting injured), that much worse, because now not only does that person have to recover, but you also need to calm the child down and try to make them happy again.
Children are also harder to keep happy than adults, which is pretty realistic. They react more poorly to being hungry or tired, and while they can be taught to help out around the house, having them do too many chores also has a mood penalty. On the other hand, a happy child makes everyone else in the house happy, which can go a long way to counter the impact of not having cigarettes for a smoker or coffee for a coffee drinker.
In addition to all that, the children are very lively in the house. They run around, they try to start up conversations with people, and you can build them a good variety of toys to play with. Talking to them at least once a day is also important, and is often humorous or touching.
The anniversary update adding more ‘stuff’ to the game, combined with the DLC, means playing TWoM again felt very fresh. Fresh enough in fact that I got three full playthroughs out of it before stepping away again, though I want to play it at least one more time. Again, highly recommended as a masterfully done experience that really pushes the “are games art” question forward.